Tomorrow, When the War Began Book Series
By Bert Ehrmann
April 6, 2012
I was ten years old the first time I saw the movie Red Dawn and it had a huge effect on me. In that film, a group of teens hide out in the mountains of Colorado while a Soviet invasion burns though their town/western America. The teens dub themselves the "Wolverines" and take it upon themselves to strike back against the invaders any way they can.
Red Dawn, along with the very real possibility of a war with Russia in the 1980s, had me literally convinced that one day I too would have to live in the woods and fight back against a Soviet invasion. Even if the woods near my house were so small that hiding anything in them would have been practically impossible.
I'm guessing that this is why I liked the book series Tomorrow, When the War began so much since it deals with the same overall ideas of a foreign invasion as in Red Dawn, this time from an Australian perspective.
The seven Tomorrow book series follows teen Ellie Linton and her six friends all just old enough to drive who decide to camp out in the outback one long weekend. At their camp they notice odd jets flying overhead but don't think much of it. When they return home they find that what they've witnessed is the start of an invasion of Australia, that all of their friends and family have been put into internment camps and the town they live in just so happens to be located on the front lines of this new war.
Escaping back in the outback, the teens slowly realize that it's up to them to operate a guerrilla war against the invaders at whatever the cost. The six books that followed, the final one being published in 1999, would chronicle Ellie and friends as they fight back against the invaders and take a mental, spiritual and physical toll on themselves.
There are some heavy topics covered in the Tomorrow series, more heavy than I would have assumed a book series aimed at teens would cover. Here, the teens are forced into life and death situations time and time again they can't comprehend, let alone deal with. Hunger is always an issue and sometimes even the act of scrounging food puts their lives on the line as this can bring them into contact with enemy patrols and convoys.
The idea of being asked to give absolutely everything, even literally one's own life in a war, is explored in these books. In the Tomorrow series, Ellie and friends do a good job of keeping the enemy off-balance behind and are greatly helping the overall war effort. But Ellie's band are little more than kids, and is it right for a government to ask them to give sacrifice so much, even their own lives, to win a total war?
Today, it's not uncommon for a book series with a female lead to appeal to both boys and girls think the Twilight books and The Hunger Games. However, back when the Tomorrow series was published this was uncommon at best. Sure, there were female leads in teen books, but those books were aimed only at girls, and the same goes for books for boys too. I think the fact that the Tomorrow series plays against this type, with a strong female character in the lead that before would have surly been male speaks volumes for just how different the Tomorrow series was when first published.
That being said, the books are not perfect. Marsden tends to rely on outlandish schemes for Ellie and her mates to attack the enemy that, in reality, at best wouldn't work and at worst would end in everyone involved killed. Also, the nationality of the invaders of Australia are never revealed, even after characters from outside Australia are introduced into the story which doesn't make logical sense.
Still, the overall quality of the books far outweighs any minor problems like that. The Tomorrow, When the War Began series are available as physical books and as e-books for the Kindle and iPad. A feature film version of Tomorrow, When the War Began is currently available on-demand here in the US.